A Possible End to Hidden Las Vegas Resort Fees
How do you get a hotel suite with a prime view of the Las Vegas strip for under $70 a night? Just ignore the Las Vegas resort fees, and only tell people how much you paid for the square footage of the room alone. It’s that simple! Don’t mention how much you were required to pay for all the amenities that come with your stay, regardless if you used them or not.
Outlandish concept right? When shopping for a car, the advertised price is not just the cost of the cabin interior. How about if you picked up a cheap deal off the shelf at your local grocery store only to have the price jump at the checkout counter for the cost of shipping the item to the store, stocking the item, refrigerating or maintaining the items freshness while it waited for you to pick it up, etc… Yeah, that wouldn’t fly, but this is the current state of hotel pricing.
When we stayed at the Las Vegas Mirage hotel in 2015, we got a great room for an average of $67 at night; it really was a great deal. Of course that does not include taxes, which is common practice at all businesses. We understand after all it’s the government that is getting that money, not the business. But then there were $30 nightly Las Vegas resort fees, oh, and don’t forget the tax on those $30 a night fees which brought the additional charges to half of what the room was advertised for. The final bill was 150% of what the room was originally advertised for.
This is the ingenious marketing ploy known as the Hotel or Resort Fee. While not all establishments partake in this dubious practice, it has become commonplace in popular tourist destinations to advertise the price for the “room” and later tack on the price for everything else the company provides, requested or not. Even on online travel web sites like Priceline.com, Hotels.com and the like, pay attention to the small print when you select your room type. During our search these additional fees did not show up in the price list after the initial search, what was shown was just the room price. Even more annoying is after digging to uncover the hidden charges, the web sites can not give a consistent resort fee. Here is just one example for the same hotel and room type from three different booking sites. Is the fee $23.52, $23.00 or $21.00?
These hotels provide a lot more than just a place to rest your head. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying resorts should not charge for services like housekeeping, internet access and resort upkeep. That is what the hotel industry claims the resort fee is for, to cover the cost of amenities and services provided with the room. This goes beyond house keeping, sometime it will include boarding pass printing, access to the hotel business center, pool maintenance, and we have even seen some hotels advertise a notary service. What we want is to know the price we’re going to be paying while shopping to get a fair comparison without having to go through the checkout process for each property in the area.
And that is the aim of a new piece of legislation being introduced by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D – Missouri). Her new bill, Truth in Hotel Advertising Act of 2016, would require the full price disclosure for a night’s stay in the advertised room rate, all property fees included. Sen. McCaskill wants to give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to prohibit hotels from separating non-optional costs from the prices of their rooms and give states’ attorneys the grounds to bring federal civil actions against companies who continue the practice. No more hidden Las Vegas resort fees!
From the bill which can be found on Congress.gov.
In the summer of 2015 Sen. McCaskill setup the “Submit Your Scam” tool on her website www.McCaskill.senate.gov and asked residents of her home state of Missouri to report their experiences with resort fees. Reportedly, 220 responses were submitted, and that’s just one state in the U.S.A; this practice affects travelers worldwide. Travelers reported not being told about the fees until they went to book the room, or after they booked the room and their card was charged, and some reported not being informed of the additional fees until they checked out. It’s bad enough you can’t do a fair price comparison if you don’t know the full price while you search. It’s doubly painful to find out about a charge after the fact, then have the hassle of a refund process. And how could it even be legal to add an undisclosed mandatory charge to a customer after they have completed their stay?
The FTC has taken action in the past to warn hotels of deceptive price practices. In 2012, the FTC sent letters to 22 hotel operators, advising them to review their pricing practices else the FTC would have to act on behalf of the publics’ interest. At that time, the FTC found that price quotes only listed room rates and taxes; extra mandatory fees were listed elsewhere in fine print, on other pages or even not at all. With our hotel booking experiences over the past few years, the hidden fees are less hidden, but it is still frustrating and cumbersome to get a true price comparison between properties due to the practice of separating resort fees.
We can’t imagine there being a traveler out and about in the world who would not support this bill and consumer advocacy groups like Travelers United are doing their part to support it, but the hotel industry says the legislation doesn’t do enough to protect consumers from deceptive advertising. The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) says the bill only targets hotel operators, leaving online booking agents like those mentioned above free to hide their own booking charges. We came across this quote from the AHLA on Skift.com
Unfortunately, instead of providing consumer with clarity and transparency in the online booking process, this legislation would hide millions of online travel agency service fees being charged. The so-called Truth in Hotel Advertising Act does not address this deceptive and unfair practice – ignoring consumer’s right to know what they are paying for and that’s why we are asking legislators to oppose this bill.”
-Katherine Lugar, head of the AHLA
While other travel industries separate out services like the airlines and their ever increasing baggage fees, those services remain optional, albeit hard to avoid. We have yet to hear of a traveler who has successfully negotiated not paying these additional hotel costs. Even when an amenity the fee is for is unavailable. Travelers have complained when the pool is closed but still the fee isn’t waived or lowered.
When shopping for a night’s stay, that is exactly the price one expects to find, the price for the whole stay. The industry knows this but they also know the psychology of a lower advertised price. The fees won’t go away, in fact, in just the first quarter of 2016, 39 Las Vegas hotels raised their resort fees an average of 7%. While this legislation might not cure the problem completely, it’s a step in the right direction for consumer transparency and ending hidden Las Vegas resort fees.